“I’m not a numbers guy.”
“We had 150 kids show up to our event last Sunday!”
“This is the time in our season where numbers dip.”
Throughout my many years of doing youth ministry, I’ve either heard myself or other youth workers say these phrases. Whether you’re a numbers person or not, when it comes to youth ministry this will always be true: numbers matter. Not that success is counted by the number of students who attend but a student’s presence in your ministry allows ministry to happen. I often say that youth group is an odd venue because in most cases we just open our doors at a given time on a specific day of the week and students… show up. Whether you have a small youth group or a large one, I believe that keeping track of attendance numbers is a good thing! If anything, it gives you a great indicator of ministry patterns during a given season, so that you can plan accordingly when numbers either increase or decrease.
But I want to use this post to encourage you that the numbers you look at are more than just numbers, they’re names. Names of students struggling with their self-esteem. Names of middle schoolers who feel like they’re the only ones going through changes. Names of high schoolers feeling the pressure to achieve and make everyone proud. Names of those loved deeply by Jesus.
Therefore, in this post I want to give you 3 reasons why putting names to numbers can make a lasting impact in your ministry.
New Parents Take Notice
On the occasion that you get a new student in your ministry, first impressions are crucial (and remember, you only get one). When a new student comes to your ministry, follow up with their parent/guardian the next day. Likely, the parent will have fresh feedback regarding their child’s experience at your ministry. Parents always value when you take notice of their kid and refer to them by name, especially if this is their first time through your doors. New parent phone calls can be intimidating, but they set the precedence that your ministry is a venue where their teenager will be cared for and valued.
Seasoned Parents Remember You Care
One of the things I’m guilty of (hopefully you’re guilty too!) is growing used to the regular attenders of my ministry. When you program your week to week ministry or your summer camps or even your retreat weekends, you often have a strong sense of who will be there. I don’t know if this happens to you, but I sometimes under-appreciate our consistent kids. It is important to remember that students, whether new or seasoned, may be struggling with daily pressures. Reaching out doesn’t have to be complicated. Sending a simple text that says “we missed you tonight!” can go a long way.
I’ve implemented a system that helps me look at my attendance and follow up accordingly. Here’s my breakdown:
Miss 1 Week – Text Message
Miss 2 Weeks in a Row – Handwritten letter
Misses 3 Weeks in a Row – Phone call
This system has helped me keep track of the names of students on my list and take notice not only of when they attend but also when they miss. Your seasoned parents will LOVE that you still value their teenager and the effort you put in to take notice of their kid. I would also recommend texting or calling both the student and parents of a student that consistently attend your ministry. Remember, they are CHOOSING to come to your ministry, and expressing your gratitude will keep you from under-appreciating their commitment to your ministry.
Learning To Know Your Families
The last benefit of keeping track of your attendance not only by numbers but also by name is that you get to know your families better. We all know there’s something good when someone calls us by name (unless it’s because you broke something). It feels good. It sounds good. It’s affirming and personal. If this is true for you, it’s also true for everyone involved in your ministry, both students and parents! So, putting faces to names makes ministry more personal for you (this goes a long way when you run into families on Sunday mornings!). When you pray for your families, you see their faces as you pray. When you speak their names, you create deeper connections. Getting to know your families is a recipe for successful and long lasting ministry. It’s personal, authentic and impactful.
Who knew that keeping track of attendance would be such a big deal?!? It may be tedious, but putting names to those numbers will make all the difference to a student and their family.